Mail center reopens after anthrax scare

With 2 negative tests, official says, site near BWI is safe to use

November 01, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

A Linthicum mail center closed for more than a week while it was tested for possible anthrax contamination will reopen today, after samples from the facility were found to be free of the potentially deadly bacteria, U.S. Postal Service officials said yesterday.

The officials said results of tests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the express mail facility near Baltimore-Washington International Airport confirmed findings of similar testing conducted by state environmental technicians, who also found no evidence of anthrax bacteria.

Mail for about 400 post office box holders in the mail center had been routed to Elkridge while the center was closed.

Postal Service spokesman Greg Colburn said that starting this morning, box holders can resume picking up their mail from the Linthicum center and customers can buy stamps from its retail sales area.

"With two negative tests, I think that everybody is relieved," Colburn said. "Customers can pick up their mail without any worry."

Anthrax contamination was suspected at the 60,000- square-foot mail center because Leroy Richmond, a worker in a Washington postal center who was hospitalized with anthrax, worked three days a week at the facility, which had been closed since Oct. 21.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening ordered state health officials to inspect the mail center last week after Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens expressed frustration that federal agencies had not shown up to evaluate the facility, which at the time had been closed for four days.

State environmental technicians swept the mail center for anthrax Oct. 25, not realizing that a six-member CDC team had been there 12 hours earlier.

Housed in "C" building in the Cargo Complex at BWI, the Linthicum mail center handles 200,000 to 300,000 pieces a day, mostly express mail and airmail, according to postal officials.

The center's 120 postal workers had continued to process mail at building "E," about 100 feet away, while the facility was closed.

Mail-sorting operations in "C" building were expected to return to full operation last night, Colburn said.

More than 200 workers from the center had been tested for anthrax. Postal officials said no workers have shown any sign of the illness.

Authorities have said that the number of anthrax cases among workers at the Brentwood mail facility in Washington leads them to believe that Richmond was more likely to have been exposed there than at the BWI center.

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